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Businessman and Clemson agricultural investigator Michael Bishop running for Lexington County Council District 1 against incumbent Scott Whetstone

Swansea, SC 05/08/2024 (Paul Kirby) – Michael Bishop, age 52, is running against the incumbent Scott Whetstone for Lexington County Council District 1. Bishop, a strong believer in term limits, had vowed to run for only two 4-year terms as the mayor of the Town of Springdale if elected.  He ran and won that race twice before stepping aside and letting someone else try their hand governing the growing Lexington County town. He has since moved to a farm he has owned for many years just north of the Town of Swansea off South Carolina Hwy. 6 on Nulty Crossing.

 

Bishop has worked for Clemson University as an agricultural investigator for 29 years. In that job, he helps regulate the fertilizer industry, certifies turf grass, and checks small grains as well as peanuts for seed. Other roles Bishop has filled in past years include pesticide regulation enforcement, organic certification, and invasive species containment. Bishop’s favorite part of the work he has accomplished with Clemson is the relationships he’s been able to build with the farmers and his regulated community.

 

As a businessman, Bishop owns and operates Dust to Dust, a green burial cemetery near Swansea. The entire concept of Dust to Dust revolves around “common sense” burial. The cemetery doesn’t allow vaults, embalming fluid, or any other unnatural materials. Few realize that if they’d like, they can be buried in an old-style wood casket, a wicker basket, or even wrapped in a blanket. These types of burials are becoming increasingly popular because they are low cost, environmentally friendly, and allow for natural funerals that some religions require.

 

Bishop has 2 sons. Luke is 24 years old and a veteran. He currently owns and operates Bishop’s Land Services and County Line Rentals in Swansea. His other son Levi is a real prodigy. Now 22, Levi graduated from Clemson University at 18 and is now in his 3rd year at UGA where he is studying to be a veterinarian. He is most interested in specializing in emergency cases and is doing residencies across the country.

 

In a recent interview, Bishop said that he loves being a public servant and making himself accessible to his community. “I’ll give anyone my phone number and I call people back in a timely manner. I’ve heard many people complain that the incumbent just doesn’t call you back when you call and leave a message. That’s what brought me into this race. My oldest son and I had an issue with Lexington County that we needed representation for. My son called Scott Whetstone and messaged him a number of times. To this date, Whetstone admits he’s never met me. If he did the job our tax dollars pay him to do, he would’ve met my son and I nearly a year ago when we needed his, as he calls it, “proven voice.” That’s not how I operate. I want people to call me when they need me. Even now before the election, people can call me on my personal cell phone at (803) 920-4074. I can assure you that they’ll hear back from me soon and if there is some way I can help them, I will.”

 

Bishop said that issues he’d like to tackle with the other members of the council are government overreach. He’d like to see the government have just enough control to maintain order without meddling in everyone’s lives, personal rights, and property rights. “I believe a person’s private property is just that, their private property. I hate seeing the government restrict what someone can do on their land if it does not negatively impact the land or adjacent properties.”

 

“I think one of the first things we can tackle when I’m elected is the problem of litter in District 1. Hwy. 321 South is embarrassing to say the least. There are already laws on the books about littering. The Council just needs to communicate with the Sheriff’s Department to understand why these laws are not being enforced and work to develop a plan to change that. I understand Council does not have direct authority over law enforcement. What the Council has direct authority over is the Sheriff Department’s budget. County Council is not powerless when it comes to these types of issues.” he said.

 

“I’d also like to see some quality, controlled growth,” Bishop continued. “We especially need to promote controlled growth of businesses and similar opportunities in our rural areas,” Bishop said. “Although we have growth around Pelion, especially in Lexington School District One, we desperately need to see some of that growth come towards Swansea,” Bishop continued. “Lexington School District Four’s leaders are doing the best with what they have but they need help. The help they really need would only come if we had some measured residential and business development that pays the taxes that sustains school districts.”

 


Bishop also said he’d like to better understand some of the things happening with the Department of Public Safety. “I understand before the County contracted with the private ambulance service to take lower acuity calls, almost all areas of the County were in the 50 percentile of response times.   Today, the response times have improved tremendously but District One still has the highest average response times and if elected I will do all in my power to help our EMS improve those numbers in our District.”

 

 He went on to say that when he was the mayor of Springdale, he’d see Lexington County Fire Trucks run their lights and sirens through town going to a call and it gave him a sense of security that those services were there if a citizen needed them. “Imagine the shock I felt when I learned that many of those trucks had just a 2-person crew on it. Except for medical calls with EMS, those 2 people really couldn’t do much until several more trucks arrived from other stations. I understand that people are one of the biggest expenses in government. I really want to work with the other council members to solve these types of problems.”

 

“For the uninformed, there are some big issues out there right now that affect the relationships between the County Council and the cities and towns. I really think the County Council needs to leave the municipalities alone and stay out of their business. I believe it’s the County’s job to work with and support municipalities, not make things more difficult for them.”

 

Bishop said his number 1 goal is attending community events regularly that let people get to know him. “I want to be a Councilman that listens more than I talk. Only when you listen to people do they begin to understand you care for them,” he said.

 

Bishop, along with multiple current County Councilmembers, take issue with most everything Whetstone said when he announced he was running for re-election. Here is a list of those statements and Bishop’s responses based on information obtained from county sources:

 

1.     Whetstone claims he fought for and won $8 million to pave dirt roads in District 1. “That’s not true,” Bishop said. “That $8 million was Federal Disaster Relief money from the 2015 floods. It had to be spent on dirt roads that met certain requirements. The County’s staff identified the roads, and the County Council as a whole approved the list.”

2.     Whetstone also says he is proud to have helped establish the Agricultural Overlay District, claiming it protects farmers and their farms. The 2040 Plan shows that some of the more recent ordinances that Whetstone pushed will require more land to be used when development follows growth which is the opposite of what the Plan is recommending.  More dense development is encouraged. “It changes the density of those lands and requires greater setbacks around row crops. It requires more rural land to develop homes in that area. The overlay requires more land, not saving or protecting it. The 2024 Land Trust is due out soon and it may show that some policies are requiring more land be used for development. When that study is available, then we can evaluate it,” according to Bishop.  

3.     Again, Whetstone said he was essential in Lexington County securing the latest expansion for the NUCOR steel building plant in Swansea. Bishop said that NUCOR had expansion plans long before Whetstone was ever elected to Council. “The last expansion was done to fulfill their long-term growth plan. NUCOR has been a great industry for southern Lexington County for decades, not just recently.”

4.     Whetstone has said that he led the fight to secure no votes from other County Councilmembers who were leaning toward voting yes on the unpopular rain tax on non-porous surfaces such as parking lots and large roofs like you find on chicken farmer’s chicken houses. Bishop answered this boast by saying, “The Council voted to give the chicken farmers a drastic reduction in their Storm Water Fee Schedule. The Council ultimately voted to try and win the Penny for Roads Referendum instead. Not because Scott changed the way they thought but because it would have been easier to implement, and the people preferred it to the rain tax.”

5.     Whetstone also says he was essential in obtaining raises and retention pay for firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement officers so that their pay compares or exceeds the other jurisdictions around us. According to Bishop, the pay raises, and retention pay was developed by the County’s staff and then voted on by the whole Council. It passed by an overwhelming majority.

6.     Bishop says Whetstone also takes credit for saving a Turkey Shoot near Pelion with a 35-year history of entertaining people. “Whetstone claims that he fought hard to keep this operation open. That’s just not how it happened. I went to the Turkey Shoot, talked with the people there, shot, and in the process found out they didn’t have a permit to operate. County staff went and helped them get a permit and into compliance with all applicable codes. The land had long been zoned for this activity, so the Turkey Shoot was in no real danger. One of the differences between Scott and I is that I took the time to go and meet the people there. The fact that community members are already reaching out to me for help when I’m not even on Council should tell you something about the quality of representation they have with their current Councilmember.”

7.     At one point in his story, Whetstone says, the County is seeing, “unheard of growth.” According to Bishop, growth has been consistent every year Whetstone has served on Council. “There’s nothing unheard of about it”, Bishop said. “Growth has come and will continue to come. The best the County Council can do is manage it in a smart way.”

8.     “Scott Whetstone actually said we don’t have a housing shortage in Lexington County. Statewide, realtors will tell you every growing area has a housing shortage. That’s one of the reasons that home prices keep rising even though interest rates are sky high. Talk to any residential realtor in Lexington County and they’ll tell you there is only a few weeks’ worth of housing here. If you plan to upsize or downsize your home in Lexington County, you had better buy your new home before ever selling your old one. If you don’t, you better have kin you can stay with or plan on staying in a hotel room or in some other region for a while until something becomes available.”

9.     Whetstone was also quoted as saying there are 7,000 homes in the current pipeline for development. “There are really between 3,800 to 4,000 home sites in that pipeline. That’s total lots, not homes! The 2023 permits issued were about 1,900 countywide. The lots are permitted for construction but that doesn’t mean a home has started being built. Whetstone’s District 1 had the fewest number of permits issued in the county.”

 

In closing, one of the last things Bishop pointed out was the statement Whetstone made about paying his taxes just like everyone else. “He says that yet the pickup truck he drives every day is not registered in the state of South Carolina but in Virginia. It’s not a work truck owned by Dominion Energy where he works. That means the property taxes of his daily driver aren’t going to Lexington County for fire service, law enforcement, EMS, or schools. For someone that makes it a point to highlight they’ve been in the district for decades, isn’t it odd the vehicle they drive every day is registered in another state? I certainly don’t think that’s fair to the taxpayers who pay their taxes here every year, do you?”

 

Michael Bishop said, “I am the pro-taxpayer voice in this race. I’ll stay true to the people I serve and never cave in to special interest groups or political pressure. I’ll fight for the issues that matter, good fire protection, EMS, and law enforcement to keep our families safe. I’ll also focus on attracting good industry to expand the tax base and revive blighted areas. Above all, I will listen to the people that elect me. I won’t spend any time bragging about what I did, or even worse, take credit for the work County employees do. Instead, I’ll use that time to listen and work with the Council as a whole to get things done. If our Council will get back on track with long-range planning it can have a positive effect on our communities, our property values, and our rights.”      

 

You can call Michael Bishop at (803) 920-4074 or email him at mbishop226@gmail.com. You can also get to know him, ask questions, and request specific video topics on his upcoming Facebook videos, @VoteMichaelBishop.



 

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